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Monday, October 10, 2011

Under-fire German judge quits Cambodia tribunal

The German judge at Cambodia's UN-backed genocide tribunal says he is resigning over government statements opposing any further prosecutions.

Siegfried Blunk said the statements could "be perceived as attempted interference by government officials".

He said he was resigning so that his independence and the court's integrity could not be doubted.

Mr Blunk has been under fire over his handling of two new cases. Human Rights Watch called for his resignation.

Up to two million Cambodians are thought to have died - from starvation, overwork or execution - during the four years of Khmer Rouge rule.

The genocide tribunal was established to bring the regime's leaders to justice. But so far only one case - against former Khmer Rouge prison chief Duch - has been successfully concluded.

Four top leaders including Pol Pot's deputy, Nuon Chea, are due to go on trial in the coming months.

'No hope'

It is the handling of the third and fourth cases - involving five people alleged to have been senior Khmer Rouge commanders - that has caused the current row.

Mr Blunk and his Cambodian counterpart You Bunleng sparked concern among rights groups in April after they closed their investigation into the third case.

Last week, Human Rights Watch called for their resignation, saying they had "failed to conduct genuine, impartial and effective investigations".

The group said that the tribunal had been "subject to frequent politically motivated interference" from the ruling party, many of whom were former Khmer Rouge leaders.

Prime Minister Hun Sen - at one point a mid-ranking Khmer Rouge commander - as well as his information minister and foreign minister have all separately made it clear in recent months that they do not want further prosecutions after the second trial has concluded.
Mr Blunk's resignation statement came through the court.

It said that while he was not influenced by political statements, "his ability to withstand such pressure by government officials to perform his duties independently, could always be called in doubt, and this would also call in doubt the integrity of the whole proceedings" of the two new cases.

Judge Blunk has been a controversial figure since he took over from French judge Marcel Lemonde to investigate cases three and four, the BBC's Guy De Launey in Phnom Penh says.

Many of his own international staff have been so dismayed by the way the crimes were being investigated that they quit in protest. One called Mr Blunk's office "dysfunctional", our correspondent says. Read more!

Rwanda: Local Envoy Presents Credentials in Cambodia

Rwanda's envoy to China, ambassador Fran├žois Xavier Ngarambe, has presented his Letters of Credence to the King of Kingdom of Cambodia His Majesty Preah Bat Samdech Preah Boromneath Norodom Sihamoni.

In his speech, Ambassador Ngarambe conveyed president Kagame's greetings and his commitment to strengthen the relations between the two countries.

"Rwanda is ready and willing to build steady and good relations with the Kingdom of Cambodia," he said.

In his welcome remarks, the King expressed his satisfaction on the diplomatic relations between the two countries since they were established in 2005.

The King also highlighted the similarities and the complementarities between the two countries and expressed the wish that the relations be strengthened for the benefit of the two people.

The king also expressed appreciation on the current tremendous development initiatives that have made Rwanda an icon for development on the continent.

The Ambassador later met Vice-Premier and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation and Senior Officials of the Ministry where they discussed areas of potential cooperation.
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Floods claim 207 lives, affect 1.2 million people in Cambodia

PHNOM PENH (Xinhua) -- The Mekong River and flash floods had killed at least 207 people and affected about 1.2 million people in 19 inundated cities and provinces in Cambodia, Nhim Vanda, the first vice president of the National Committee for Disaster Management, said on Monday in a press briefing.

"Among the dead, 52 percent is children," he said.

More than 300,000 hectares of rice paddies have been affected and other 100,000 hectares of rice paddies were completely damaged.

Some 600 houses were swept away by floods and other 196,600 houses, 1,132 schools and 400 Buddhist pagodas are inundated, he said, adding that some 180 kilometers of national roads and around 1,800 kilometers of gravel roads have been affected.

"It's estimated that the damaged cost from floods this year seems comparable to the damage in the floods in the year 2000 of 161 million U.S. dollars," he said.

Meanwhile, Nhim Vanda said that the government of Cambodia has released 1,900 tons of milled rice to distribute to the victims.

So far, the government of Cambodia, Cambodian Red Cross, charitable countries and organizations has distributed emergency relief to more than 70,000 families with about 280,000 people out of the 100,000 families who have been evacuated to higher ground.

He said that China, Japan, World Food Program, and a number of local and international organizations have also provided emergency relief to the flood victims.

Also, the Asian Development Bank has pledged to provide a grant of 3 million U.S. dollars to Cambodia to rehabilitate gravel roads after the floods.

Nhim Vanda said that as of Monday, floods have been slowing receding, but only in Phnom Penh, capital of Cambodia, the Mekong River's water level still slightly rise to 10.86 meters.
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